Where Are You?
"And the man and his wife hid from Hashem among the trees of the garden. Hashem called out to the man and said to him, 'Where are you?'" (Bereshis 3:8-9). "Where are you?!?" What sort of a question is this? Hashem knows everything. He surely knew where Adam and Chava were. Why did He ask, "Where are you?" There must be a deeper meaning to this question.
The Vilna Gaon has an explanation, which puts the question into perspective. The man was created perfect. He was given only one negative mitzvah, to refrain from eating from the Tree of Knowledge. Had he done this, the world would have fulfilled its purpose and come to completion. Tragically, Adam and Chava committed the Sin of the Tree of Knowledge. They fell from their exalted spiritual level, and were now cursed with suffering and death. "Where are you?" asks Hashem. Take the time to think about what has happened. You have fallen. Yesterday you followed My instructions. Now you follow the snake. Yesterday you were able to see from one end of the world to the other. Now you can only see the trees of the garden (Bereshis Rabba 19:9).
The Medrash describes the gravity of the sin by paralleling it to the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash and the exile to Bavel. Adam HaRishon entered Gan Eden with one mitzvah. He did not keep that mitzvah and was punished with golus (exile). Hashem Himself lamented by saying, "ayeka" which is spelled the same as "eicha". Generations later, his sons entered Eretz Yisrael. Hashem commanded them to keep His Torah. The sinned and were exiled. And so, Yirmiyahu HaNovi lamented by saying, "eicha". The first sin was so devastating, that it eventually led to the tragedy of golus and its accompanying sins.
Kinderlach . . .
Where are we? Baruch Hashem, we are in a good place. Today we begin the Torah anew. We crowned Hashem as King on Rosh Hashanah. He forgave our sins on Yom Kippur. We sat together with Him in the Succah for seven days. On the eighth day, we completed His Torah with great dancing and celebration. Where are we today? On a very high madrayga (spiritual level) - free of sin and close to Hashem. Let us all try our best to stay there. One important tool is to ask yourself, "Where am I?" once a day. What did I do right today, and what did I do wrong? Strengthen the good deeds and eliminate the bad ones. If you do this, B'ezrat Hashem you will always be where you want to be. "Where are you?" On top of the world.
Knock Before Entering
"Imma I'm home!"
Avi's mother was startled. She had been washing dishes and did not see or hear her son walk in the door. Her hands jumped and she dropped the plate that she was washing.
"Oy vey, Imma. I am so sorry."
Avi's mother regained her composure.
"It is okay, Avi. You scared me. I did not hear you come in."
"I guess that I should have knocked before entering the room, Imma."
"That is a wonderful idea, Avi. Did you know that this week's parasha hints to this very point?"
"Really Imma? Where?"
"Here. 'Hashem Elokim called to the man and he said to him…' (Bereshis 3:9). Hashem did two things. First, He called to Adam HaRishon. Then He began speaking to him. Why did He call first before speaking?"
"To teach us derech eretz (the proper way to behave)."
"Exactly, Avi. Our sages (Mesechta Derech Eretz 5) explain that a person should never enter a room suddenly without warning. Rather he should call out to those inside or knock before entering. Why? Because the person inside the room may be doing something private. He surely would not want to be disturbed."
"Imma, I noticed that Abba is always careful to knock on the front door before entering the house."
"Abba has true derech eretz, Avi. He does not want to disturb or startle any of the family members, even though he is walking into his own house."
"I want to be like him, Imma."
"B'ezrat Hashem, Avi."
Kinderlach . . .
Derech eretz is composed of small deeds, done in an unassuming way. Knocking before entering is one example. This is one example of the importance of not disturbing or frightening people. Respect their feelings and do not frighten them or annoy them. Respect their privacy and do not disturb them. Respect your fellow human beings! That is the key to derech eretz.
"Rabbi, I must have an answer to this question immediately. Why does Hashem ask Adam HaRishon, 'Where are you?' (Bereshis 3:9). Didn't Hashem know where Adam was?"
The Rabbi was a bit stunned by this abrupt question. He took a moment to collect his thoughts, closed the sefer that he was learning, and began to answer.
"Rashi also points out that Hashem knew where Adam was. However, The Almighty wanted to begin the conversation gently. He gave Adam a chance to warm up and relax. Then He asked him the question about the Eitz Ha'daas (Tree of Knowledge). With this introduction, Adam HaRishon would not be afraid to answer. He might even admit his sin and do teshuva. For Hashem does not want to punish sinners, rather He wants them to do teshuva. Rashi mentions three other examples of Hashem beginning a conversation gently. He adds that the proper way (to converse) is not to begin abruptly."
"I see, Rabbi. I guess I need some lessons in this area. I am very sorry that I asked my question so suddenly. I will resolve to do better in the future."
"I forgive you completely. And I also give you a blessing that everyone should love speaking with you."
Kinderlach . . .
Conversation is a skill. Learn how to talk with people. We all know how precious every word is. The Chofetz Chaim teaches us that. However, sometimes we need to spend a few extra words. If we are approaching a difficult or embarrassing subject, or we are making a request, we need to warm up the conversation first. Hashem Himself, who does not waste any words, began four different conversations gently. Why? To make His point easier to hear. To allow the person to save face. Consider the one to whom you are speaking. Make him feel comfortable. Begin your conversation gently.
How long was Hashem will to be patient until he brought the flood? (Rashi 6:3)
What were the generations from Adam to Noach? (5:1-32)
Why did Hashem ask Kayin, "Where is Hevel your brother?" (Rashi 4:9)
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